Campsites were in short supply Saturday as bluegrass fans took over Marion County Park and Lake for the lake’s annual bluegrass festival.
Campers started filling up sites Thursday. By Saturday, lake superintendent Steve Hudson was scrambling to find places to put them.
“We were creating electrical spots,” he said. “We had some one-tent outlets that were available near the pavilion; we had some spots near the house. Some places they doubled up. Saturday alone, we sold over 30 out-of-county tent permits. That’s really never happened before.”
A Wichita couple, Jess Bechtelheimer and Geoff Kisch, pedaled a borrowed tandem bicycle to the concert.
Bechtelheimer said they were avid riders and familiar with several of the bands.
“We ride on our bikes pretty much everywhere, so why not?” she said.
There was a point at which Kisch had second thoughts.
“About mile 50,” he said.
With people coming and going for musical acts that played from early afternoon through late night, pegging attendance numbers for the event was, at best, an educated guess. Hudson estimated more than 700, while festival committee member Bob McCurdy put the number closer to 1,000.
Either way, the ninth edition was the biggest yet.
“It was by far, by about twice,” McCurdy said. “Mother Nature totally helped us out. She was pretty kind to us when it was all said and done. I’m glad to see that much interest from the locals to come out and support the lake.”
Six groups played in an afternoon “Battle of the Bands” that was won by an ensemble from El Dorado. Five groups filled the evening slate, topped off by a mix of bluegrass, punk, and Dixieland by popular Wichita band Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy.
“From the sounds of it, everyone gave a good review of it,” McCurdy said.
A silent auction, a cornhole tournament, and donations raised almost $2,000 to go toward lake projects, Hudson said.
McCurdy said he would like to see the event continue to grow.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing twice as many as were there this weekend,” he said. “I think the lake could accommodate it. I think we’d like to see it grow to a full two-day event. Time will tell on that.”